December 4, 2016

Minority students feel a lack of inclusion, despite university efforts

The core values of Webster University consist of diversity and inclusion, but Webster senior legal studies major Candace Brown said she does not feel included as a black student on campus. Brown said she just feels like a number.

“Anytime there is a photo opportunity, Webster makes sure they include somebody black,” Brown said. “Don’t just use diversity as a marketing campaign.”

Brown said she would prefer if Webster would portray the reality of the diversity on campus because otherwise it is misleading to incoming students. The race and ethnicity statistics for enrollment in the Fall of 2014 show that African American students make up 16.7 percent of the Webster Groves student population, which is the second highest percentage of the graduate and undergraduate population at the Webster Groves campus. White students account for 63.8 percent.

University President Elizabeth Stroble describes diversity as more than race and ethnicity. She said diversity includes students with different gender, religion, gifts and disabilities. She said Webster strives for diversity by including all of those differences.

“Whatever makes people different from what people think is the norm tends to disadvantage them and cause them not to be included and not to be seen as valued,” Stroble said. “Let’s include all of these groups and find a way that we strengthen each other and value what makes us different.”

Global Understanding

Webster describes itself as “one of the most diverse and global universities in the world,” on the University website. It accommodates students from over eight different races and ethnicities including Asian, Native American and Hispanic.

Junior script writing major Eric Ramirez said Webster is more diverse than most other universities, in regards to different sexualities and genders. But he said Webster needs to work on the understanding of different cultures.

“When I find people that share the same culture as I do, they understand me a lot more,” Ramirez, who is Hispanic, said. “That’s why sometimes I can come off as an outsider because some people just don’t understand why I act the way I act.”

He said Webster does a good job with cultural events but he said the fun of the events are oftentimes not coupled with the education. Ramirez said emphasis on educating students about the culture would promote further global appreciation.

“Yes, during Cinco De Mayo Marletto’s will place out a taco stand (for Hispanics),  but is that really showing appreciation for my culture?” Ramirez asked. “There’s not really any education on why we celebrate Cinco De Mayo for the people who are just there to eat tacos.”

Resources for Minorities

Diversity and Inclusion Officer Nicole Roach said Webster has implemented several resources to recruit a more diverse student body. Webster offers the Donald M. Scuggs Minority Scholarship for incoming black students, a LATPRO Scholarship for Hispanic students and a DiversityJobs.com Scholarship for all diverse members including students with disabilities and those in the LGBTQ community.

Webster also has a Transitions and Academic Prep (TAP) program in which several minority students are enrolled.

TAP is a program that allows students to gain academic credit for attending workshops on topics such as college adjustment and campus employment before beginning at Webster. Nearly half of the students this year were the first in their families to attend college.

“They have this community within that group that kind of gives them that sense of inclusion,” Roach said. “It allows them to bring their best self to the classroom once that first day of school starts.”

Diversity Commitment

2014 marked the 23rd consecutive year that Webster’s graduate program was ranked as the most diverse among private non-profit and public institutions in the U.S., according to the Diverse Issues in Higher Education (DIHE) Journal.

Stoble said the University’s appreciation of all ethnicities has allowed it to grow and continue to have a diverse graduate program.

“We open doors to careers and leadership for people who probably had doors shut to them by other institutions,” Stroble said. “So it’s good if now we focus on doing this at the undergraduate level and I think we are.”

Brown said Webster has still not met its claims of diversity for undergraduate students. She said she has been the minority in most of her classes for her four years at Webster. She said she involuntarily becomes the spokesperson for all black people in those classes.

“When certain things like race or ethnicity or privilege or slavery comes up, it does become awkward,” Brown said. “You’re seen as the representative for all of the black people.”

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